The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in the Greater Cleveland area received the Envision Silver award for sustainable infrastructure from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI). Typically applied at the planning and design stages of infrastructure development, the Envision system rates infrastructure projects across the full range of environmental, social, and economic impacts. For the NEORSD Southerly Plant, a pilot initiative was undertaken in which Envision verification was pursued well into the plant’s operational life, making this the oldest infrastructure project that has been verified by the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system.
The original NEORSD Southerly Plant became operational in 1928 and underwent a major rehabilitation in 1974 with investments of $400 million. More recently, construction of a Renewable Energy Facility (REF) at the Southerly Plant became fully operational in 2014, which was a key driver to pursuing Envision verification for the facility.
“As a progressive, environmental organization, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is proud to be recognized for its continued infrastructure investments at its Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest wastewater treatment plant in the State of Ohio and the 12th largest in the nation. These investments, including the construction of the Renewable Energy Facility, a state-of-the-art incineration facility that, in part, reduces the plant’s natural gas consumption and electrical costs, has positively impacted the environment and public health,” said Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO of NEORSD. “Our work at Southerly is a reflection of the Sewer District’s commitment to sustainable business practices throughout the entire organization.”
The NEORSD Southerly Plant is located in the Village of Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio on a 288-acre site. It serves a population of more than 530,000 in the Greater Cleveland area. The Southerly Plant is the largest of the district’s three wastewater treatment plants and is among the largest of its kind in the United States, handling an average flow of 120 million gallons per day (mgd).
As the operator of the facility, the NEORSD collaborated closely with The Construction Green Team on the Envision sustainable infrastructure project submission. As a collaborative effort between ISI and the Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, the Envision system rates the impact of sustainable infrastructure projects as a whole. The Envision system measures sustainable infrastructure in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk. These key areas contribute to the positive social, economic, and environmental impacts on a community.
Key sustainable accomplishments of the NEORSD Southerly Plant that contributed to the plant earning an Envision Silver award include:
Economic Growth and Development — NEORSD creates approximately 70 percent of the employment in Cuyahoga Heights. Approximately 200 people work at the Southerly Plant and the employees have many opportunities to advance their careers through training and education. The organization also has a college tuition assistance program in place, and offers training programs such as maintenance and operator training programs. NEORSD has earned The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com Top Work Places and NorthCoast 99 Great Workplace awards in recognition of its contribution to economic growth in the communities it serves through its hiring practices and support of its employees.
Development of Local Skills and Capabilities — Educational opportunities are expanded to other stakeholders in Cuyahoga Heights and beyond through NEORSD’s offers of introductory-level workshops designed for Northeast Ohioans interested in learning more about the history and future of sewer systems, water quality, and sustainability in the region. These workshops are attended by a range of stakeholders, including customers, public officials, community groups, and school groups.
Long-Term Monitoring and Maintenance — The NEORSD Southerly Plant has been operational for decades with a well-established history of undergoing upgrades and rehabilitations over time to continue to meet the needs of the community it serves, as well as to continue to comply with stricter water treatment standards.
Energy Reduction — The recently completed REF at the Southerly Plant provides further evidence of the NEORSD’s leadership. The REF uses sludge, septage, and grease from both the Southerly and Easterly plants to generate energy. Construction of the REF, along with decommissioning of the Southerly Plant’s Biosolids Thermal Conditioning System, contributes to a reduction in natural gas use by approximately 137,000 mcf per year.
“ISI is pleased to present the Southerly Plant with the Envision Silver award for sustainable infrastructure,” said ISI President and CEO John Stanton. “We are impressed with the district’s leadership and ongoing commitments to upgrading, operating, and maintaining this facility in accordance with the highest sustainability standards. Recent upgrades and additions to the plant, including the Renewable Energy Facility, will result in the Southerly Plant being able to serve the community of Cuyahoga Heights and the Greater Cleveland area for decades to come.”
Information provided by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (www.sustainableinfrastructure.org).